I'd like to talk for a moment about how much tougher your job is than other professional work, how you are underpaid, and, especially, how you "deserve" your summers off.
See, a friend shared a link the other day that showed a bunch of witty memes with comments like the one above, comments that played up how difficult the teacher's job is.
No question, juggling the idiosyncrasies and increasing numbers of identified special needs of 40 (or more) students is crazy-making. It's stressful. Dealing with all the paper work and adminis-trivia is soul-crushing. But guess what? Other professionals have to do that, too.
But instead of students, they're dealing with patients, or employees they supervise, or members of the public (who are not at all comfortable or happy).
You do work long hours, longer hours than a typical hourly worker. And you bring work home. Well, guess what? So does nearly every other salaried professional I've ever met. So did I when I was working. Technology makes the office even more ever-present as professionals frequently catch up on e-mail and prepare materials after hours. The 40-hour work week is a myth. And, no, we don't earn overtime. I've never earned a penny of overtime in my working career, nor did my husband. We only get paid for 40 (or fewer) of those hours, but we work far more.
And most professionals have travel requirements as part of their work. At first, this is an enviable perk. But, increasingly, it takes away from family time. It is not a vacation -- often they're lucky if they see more than the airport, the inside of an office building, and their hotel room. If the travel is international, it screws up their body clock and exposes them to new viruses (yay). And while they're out of town, they, again, usually work far longer days to pack as much in as they possibly can. Whenever possible, they do day-trips -- down and back in one very long day -- so they won't be out of the office (or away from family) more than absolutely necessary. Those days are exhausting.
Bear in mind also that an increasing number of workers are self-employed -- consultants or contractors or those doctors and lawyers you mentioned. They don't get a single day of paid leave -- not vacation, parental, or sick leave. They also can't count on a predictable paycheque, so there's that stress.
Did you know that many of the professionals that you compare yourselves to work 12-hour overnight shifts? That's the situation for most hospital nurses. Not much time to recharge when you're on shift.
Are you really underpaid?*
At my last professional job, where I worked a 65-hour week but was paid for 35 hours, I earned significantly less than an elementary school teacher with the same number of years of experience. My job came with benefits, but no pension plan, and six days of sick leave per year. The starting salary for a registered nurse in Ottawa is $6,000 less than the starting salary for an elementary school teacher in Ottawa.
Summers off. It's a sensitive point, isn't it?
It should be. Most professional workers are lucky to get four weeks of annual vacation, and they have to use some of that for Christmas and, oh, if their kids' schools have a professional development day, then they have to use their accumulated vacation for that, too. Pray to god no one gets sick! (Overheard conversation: "Honey, I used my leave for last March break. It's your turn this year." "But I used mine when little Hannah had chicken pox.") At my last job, we were given six days of sick leave per year. And this was in a hospital where it's actually dangerous to come to work while you're sick, so . . .
Summers are expensive for families with school-aged children -- camps and child-care add up.
Don't tell us you "deserve" your summers off, or you've "earned" them. You've negotiated them, you work for them, you benefit from them. It's a fluke that you get summers off, and I really hope you appreciate them, rather than feeling you are entitled to them.
Teachers, we need you. We value your dedication and creativity and the hard work you do. With confidence and appreciation, we entrust our children to your care. Thank you.
But, please, appreciate what you have and stop trying to convince us that you're getting a raw deal.
* Note that these salary figures are based on Ottawa-Carleton figures. I expect that salary differences are comparable across Canada, but I understand that American teachers are often paid significantly less.